The Oklahoma City Thunder have endured a roller-coaster ride of a game and soundly defeated the Utah Jazz in overtime, 104-98. It seemed as if the Jazz were in control for the entire duration of the first half, as they built a 13 point lead. The Thunder were struggling to secure offensive rebounds, turned the ball over, and were giving up too many mismatches. But OKC emerged into the second half strong, going on a 25-7 Westbrook and Durant fueled run.
Unfortunately, the Thunder's bench wasn't up to the task of defending the lead between the third and fourth quarters. Rodney Hood scored on Dion Waiters, Trey Burke scored on D.J. Augustin, and Derrick Favors scored on Kanter. By the time the Thunder's starters could come back in, the Jazz had amassed a 7 point lead. Luckily, the Thunder were able to turn to KD. Every single point the Thunder scored in the last 6.5 minutes of the game was either made by KD or assisted by KD. Westbrook had a couple of opportunities, but took a couple of difficult shots instead of looking to a nearby Dion Waiters. On the other end, the Jazz slowed the game down and packed the paint.
Eventually, it would be Billy Donovan's heroics that sent the game into overtime. OKC missed two straight shots, and had the ball with 20 seconds left. He called timeout, and drew up a play that got KD a mismatch on the wing. KD got to the rim past a flat-footed Favors, tying the game. The Jazz had a chance to win it, but Hayward was too indecisive around a screen and threw it away.
In overtime, Westbrook struck quickly, scoring on the first two possessions before you could even think about it. Westbrook completely shut down Alec Burks as well. But it was the Thunder's team defense near the rim that really sealed the deal. The Jazz were only 5-15 in the paint during the fourth quarter and overtime. Both Ibaka and Adams played huge roles in this.
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The two sides of Kevin Durant
If you look at KD's halftime line, it isn't good. Four turnovers, to go with just two shots and two assists. It was an unusually low level of activity for Durant, who is normally looked to as the team's primary shooter. It really did look like KD was dealing with fatigue. Two of the turnovers were passes that went through KD's hands, while the other two were due to KD's indecisiveness with the ball.
But going into the second half, KD definitely amped up his aggressiveness. The first two plays were quick turnaround scores in isolations with Hayward. This increased the pace of the game, allowing KD to pull up for a quick three two possessions later. Aside from one more score on Hayward, the rest of the quarter was KD taking what the defense gave him. A couple plays in transition, a score on a mismatch with Lyles, and a rip move on Burks.
The fourth quarter was full-flight KD. As mentioned above, once KD checked in with 7.5 minutes left in the fourth, he scored or assisted on all of the Thunder's remaining points. It started off with Durant getting a favorable matchup with the 6'6" Elijah Milsap. KD was easily able to rise for a jumper and get to the line. The Jazz decided to double, and KD responded by handing off to Ibaka, who scored his first field goal of the night. Ibaka repaid the favor with a steal a couple of possessions later, and forwarded it to KD for the transition dunk.
From this point on, KD was a marked man, and the Jazz hassled him with double-teams. But to no avail. At 2:47, KD busted around Hayward with a rip move, and then scored a tough floater through the arms of a waiting Favors. At 1:29, KD used an Adams screen to draw two jazz defenders, then found the open Adams for the layup. On the next play, KD was double-teamed on the wing, but managed to find Ibaka open for three in the opposite corner. Finally, with 20 seconds to go, KD was able to get a driving dunk on a mismatch with Derrick Favors.
Mixed among all of this fourth quarter glory is 0 turnovers and only three misses. The misses are forgivable. A missed catch and shoot three, a tough layup that almost went in, and a desperation turnaround three at the end of regulation. Honestly, it was one of the most complete fourth quarter performances I've ever seen.
How was Russell Westbrook?
The Jazz made an immediate change at the starting point guard position, putting in Alec Burks in place of Raul Neto. This gave Westbrook the matchup he wanted. Westbrook tried to do all he could to take advantage of it individually, by shooting a couple of threes and forcing it inside. That wasn't too successful, but the second quarter saw Westbrook working with the pick and roll game a bit more. Westbrook also was very crafty at the end of the half. The last three possessions saw Westbrook get fouled in transition, get fouled on the perimeter, and score a shot off his own inbounds with only 0.7 left.
The third quarter was a continuation of Westbrook's positive energy. Westbrook scored three baskets in transition, and got a couple of assists very early in the shot clock. Here, Westbrook's pushing the pace was essential to putting the Jazz on their heels. The fourth quarter was less successful, though. Westbrook just couldn't get his shot going, missing a couple of threes early in his last stint. This allowed the Jazz to pack the paint against Westbrook, who couldn't get any of three layup attempts to go at various times. Still, Herculean effort by Westbrook to get two consecutive offensive rebounds with under 30 seconds to go, including one on his own shot.
Overtime was much more kind to Westbrook's legacy. The Jazz gave Westbrook his cotton shot on the first possession, which Russ took and made. Next possession, Westbrook ran out a missed Favors shot for a dunk. Westbrook went 0-4 from that point on, but all of the shots he took were open and barely missed. It was apparent that the Jazz made a concerted effort to keep Westbrook away from the rim.
In any case, it wasn't Russ' best night, but it wasn't his worst either. And he certainly delivered when it mattered.
Why did the Thunder win this game?
Just from having seen the game, I've come to the conclusion that the Jazz just don't shoot threes that well. The Thunder were giving them decent attempts, but they still only shot 36% as a team. Coach Quin Snyder probably recognized this from last Friday, and played Joe Ingles today. Unfortunately for them, Ingles missed three attempts from three in just 7 minutes of action. The Jazz also shot just 12-20 from the free throw line. Really, it came down to the Jazz not being able to capitalize on a good performance on the boards and in terms of turnovers.
- Really strange night from Serge Ibaka, who took only five shots. That's the least amount of shots Serge has taken in a game this season. Ibaka looked tired, and literally airballed a wide open mid-range shot in the first half. Otherwise, Ibaka really struggled to make his presence felt defensively and on the boards. Still, Ibaka's perfect clutch shooting and late interior defense really saved the day.
- This defensive play by Ibaka to stop Hayward's breakaway in overtime was pretty cool.
- Anthony Morrow had two great defensive stops at the end of the first half, when the Thunder really needed them. Great help steal on Hood, and then Morrow stopped Milsap in his tracks with a block. Despite this, it was a quiet night overall. Morrow hit a three in the first half, but didn't get to touch the ball for the first 5 minutes of the fourth.
- Dion Waiters kicked off the game strong, scoring on a couple of catch and shoot threes from Durant and Westbrook in the first quarter. Then, the second quarter saw Dion rack up 3 assists on drives to the rim. The rest of the game was a bit quieter. Dion hit another three from Westbrook, but bricked an off the dribble three and badly messed up a drive. The fourth quarter saw Dion hit a layup on an egregious travel call, pass it to Durant on the break, and grab his own blocked shot. Overtime saw Dion brick an off-balance corner three. On defense, I saw a bit of intensity at times but overall he was inattentive on the perimeter. At least two, maybe three of the Jazz threes are just his fault. Ultimately, like all other Dion Waiters games, I really don't know what to make of it.
- Steven Adams hit a key shot during the third and fourth quarter runs that put the Thunder in position to win the game. Also, Adams defense of Derrick Favors was much better than Kanter's was. Heck, Adams even won the overtime tipoff. But overall, a quiet game from Adams. Not as important as Ibaka on defense late, and allowed a good amount of points inside during the run of play.
- Andre Roberson was super hesitant. Roberson's only score came on a runout from his own steal. Dre's other shots were a missed three and a blocked layup, again on his own steal. Still, 2 assists and 2 turnovers isn't terrible for him. At least he's figuring out how to move the ball once he gets it if his shot isn't on.
- D.J. Augustin was obliterated by Trey Burke and posted 0s across the board.
- Enes Kanter continues his struggle against his former team. One of his shot was a sick fadeaway. But Kanter's defense was definitely abused, and the Thunder's ball movement wasn't good enough to find him regularly.
- Nick Collison got a pair of free throws in the fourth, and missed a couple of tough shots earlier than that. But his most notable impact on the game was when he "flagrant 1" fouled Rodney Hood on a drive to the rim. This gave the Jazz 2 FT and the ball. Wasn't really malicious, Collison just missed the ball and grabbed Hood's head a bit.
- A fan hit a halfcourt shot for $20K right after that 25-7 Thunder run in the third quarter.
- KD's game-tying play towards the end of regulation.
- Westbrook's shot with 0.7 seconds left in the half. According to Donovan after the game, Westbrook totally improvised it.
- "[KD] kept his composure the whole entire game. He was really positive in the locker room when we were down 13." -Billy Donovan, post game
- "This is a playoff type of game. This team, they made... the proper adjustments. They started Alec Burks instead of Neto. They have a really good coach. They play hard. Defensively, they were getting into us early. And they made adjustments. We knew it was going to be tough. We knew they were going to come in and play the same game that they played last game." -Kevin Durant, post game
- "[Serge] made a big time play. I've seen him work on it every day. The pump fake fly-by three." - Kevin Durant, post game
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, the closer
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, the quick striker
Thunder Blunder: D.J. Augustin, 0fer
Thunder Plunderer: Rodney Hood, 23 points and some great early drives to the rim
Next Game: Versus the Portland Trail Blazers, Wednesday, December 6th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!